Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Cosmos: Open for Isness

A Saturday bonus post, because I'd like to dwell on a subject less depraved than the left. Which consists of most anything and everything. However, we will inevitably come back to it, because we're talking about Hayek and the abuse of reason, and what is the left but the abuse of reason?

Actually, a lot of things: ignorance, stupidity, indoctrination, mimicry, mental illness, wishful thinking, demagoguery, moral insanity, envy, projection, lust for power, ideology, tenure.

Regarding ideology, I read a piece this morning that highlights a useful distinction between the mere lie and ideological lying. "Ordinary falsehood"

“stays in touch with the truth and knowingly distorts the truth,” whereas the “ideological lie, by contrast... seeks to impose a pseudo-reality upon reality. It does not depart from reality so much as [it] completely ignores reality and... seeks to disrupt our normal access to reality.”

Yes. As we've mentioned before, the ordinary lie is parasitic on truth. In order to tell this type of lie, one must be aware of the truth, and the purpose of the lie is to fool oneself or others into denying it. For example, does Obama really believe he and not Trump is responsible for our booming economy?

That actually introduces a third type of lying. You could call it a "twilight lie," because it is half-known and half-unknown. UnKnown, so to speak. In this case, Obama's lie is probably conditioned by his vanity, narcissism, and self-importance. Of course, he also lies for ideological purposes, but then he wouldn't take personal credit for the recovery, but would attribute it to leftist policies. That would be harder to do, since Trump has been systematically undoing Obama's leftist policies.

This picture depicts Obama's dilemma: twilit lie or ideological lie?

Interestingly, Obama chooses to sacrifice his ideology to his narcissism. A real ideologue will sacrifice even his self-interest to his ideology -- like Soviet communists who denounced themselves and became martyrs to the ideology.

In America, few ideologues go that far. The brainwashed masses certainly do -- they routinely sacrifice self-interest to envy, hatred, and resentment -- but the leaders never do. Rather, they monetize e., h., and r., as have leftists from Bernie Sanders to Al Sharpton to the Obamas. Show me the leftist leader who dies a poor man.

Truman said something to the effect that there is a name for a politician who enters office a poor man and leaves a rich man: crook.

Back to the linked article. The ideological lie not only ignores truth but creates a pseudo-reality:

The pseudo-reality “acquires a very peculiar but real strength,” Taylor said.... “It becomes reality itself, albeit a reality altogether self-contained, one that on certain levels may have greater weight than reality as such. Reality does not shape theory, but rather the reverse.

It can appear that “theory itself... ideology itself, makes the decisions that affect people, not the other way around,” the Skidmore professor said. “And so in this precise sense, totalitarian regimes, ideocracies, are inhuman” and impenetrable.

Yes². I'm particularly intrigued by what he says about reality becoming "self-contained." This goes to one of those permanent intellectual passions I mentioned a few posts back -- you know, the notion that every intellectual-type person is animated by one or two or three core ideas that they keep rediscovering. This is reflected in the gag that all philosophy is autobiography in disguise.

For me, one of the Big Ideas of my autobobography is that of the open system. My obsession with it can be traced back to my doctoral dissertation, which, now that I think about it, contains all of the Big Ideas that have been haunting me ever since. But let's focus on open systems.

Back in the day (1994), when my goal was to be a scholar and not a cult leader, I published an article called Psychoanalysis, Chaos, and Complexity: The Evolving Mind as a Dissipative Structure. I won't fascinate you with the details, but a dissipative structure is essentially a self-organizing, open system that exchanges matter, energy, and/or information with the environment. Obviously, all living things are dissipative structures, but my article showed how the human mind operates in the exact same way, only on a higher level.

Some of this stuff could have been written today: it both leads and points back to One Cosmos. Oldbob speaks of a desire to "unify diverse fields of science" and "attenuate the traditional boundaries that divide different 'departments' of learning." Elsewhere he raves about overcoming "the presumed distinction between the animate and inanimate" and "the contradictions between physics and biology, being and becoming, and freedom and determinacy."

Or, check this out. Somehow it slipped past the peers and into a sober journal: "life is not simply an anomalous refugee from the laws of physics, enjoying a brief triumph over the ineluctable necessity of entropy. Rather, life is understood to be an intrinsic expression of the type of universe we happen to inhabit. Similarly, 'mind' is considered immanent, not in solid spatial structure (like a mind mysteriously 'contained' in a brain) but as reflected in the process through which all systems self-organize and renew themselves."

And no, I wasn't just deepacking the chopra. Rather, I proceed to describe in detail exactly what I mean. All of it still holds up, only my perspective has widened and deepened since then. Or rather, I now know explicitly what I only en-visioned then implicitly.

So yesterday, while driving, the phrase pops into my head "open cosmos." That is truly the ultimate question: is the cosmos an open system, or is it closed? Something tells me we've posted on this subject before, but in any event, here it is again.

The bottom line, since we're getting to the bottom of the post, is that the cosmos is indeed an open system. Open to what? In a word, God. Until quite recently (far less than 1% of our existence), man has been intuitively aware of this openness to a transcendent source. Yes, it has often been expressed in mythological terms, but the myth is a linguistic transformation of the intuitive experience, or awareness, or vision.

For me, it is obvious that truth, love, and beauty (for starters) cannot be reduced to anything wholly intra-cosmic. Indeed, the cosmos itself cannot be explained by the cosmos, but the main point is that man is a vertically open system and that revelation, for example, is a quintessential expression of this.

Wrapping up, you could say that the symbols (↑) and (↓) in the bOOk go precisely to this: they are whatever it is to which we are vertically open, from grace to truth to love to salvation to beauty, etc.

Put it this way: the cosmos is either an open system or it is closed. But if it is closed, you've got a lot of explaining to do. And yet, no matter how detailed your explanation, it amounts to nothing -- the bad kind. It is a massive ideological lie, the most massive manmade object conceivable. It is superimposed upon reality, which may be comforting for awhile -- until your little closed system results in ontological asphyxiation and starvation.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Exact Ignorance: What We Can't Know and What We Must UnKnow

For example, we can't know everything. That's a... well, we can't say "fact," because what's a fact? We're talking about a much deeper, a priori principle. Awareness of our epistemological lack -- the hole in our soul -- is something we must know. If we fail to know it, then catastrophes follow, every time. All of socialism, for example, is based on a delusional belief that one possesses knowledge which is literally impossible for any finite being to know.

Hayek was a "social scientist," and social science is thought to be -- and usually is -- softer and far less rigorous than science per se.

No one, for example, would say that something as malleable and flabby as psychology is more rigorous than neurology or neurobiology. As a psychologist, I always want to know what's going on medically before I begin speculating about psychological causes. There are levels of truth. As there are levels of ignorance; and there are healthy and pathological forms of ignorance.

However, there's another way of looking at it -- a meta-way -- in which social science can trump science. Such a meta-view isn't so much "exact" as ineluctable, or foundational, or truistic. For this reason, we can say that the highest wisdom always -- and by definition -- surpasses the highest knowledge (we'll leave unknowing to the side, but we'll return to it later).

Our house aphorist captures this perfectly: Properly speaking, the social sciences are not inexact sciences, but sciences of the inexact. Yes. But this doesn't mean there aren't bad and stupid sciences of the inexact! For example, most psychological theories aren't even worth the trouble it takes to refute them. 57 genders? Shrug.

As to wisdom transcending knowledge, Dávila understands exactly (heh) what we're talking about: that Without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know.

Boom. This applies now and forever. It is a home truth that we must know in order to avoid stupendous absurdities, collapses, and other adamantine fallies. Come to think of it, to not know this is to immediately lapse into epistemological fall-acy. The moment you imagine you know what can't by definition be known, that is what we might call a lower form of stupidity (just as non-knowing can be a higher form of knowledge).

Hayek emphasizes the principle that reason is bounded. When it proceeds as if it is unbounded, then it becomes irrational, precisely (heh heh).

“Irrationalist” is shouted at the reason that does not keep quiet about the vices of rationalism. But the Raccoon shouts "irrationalist!" at the reason that is ignorant of its limits.

While searching for the exact aphorism several paragraphs above (about science failing to know what it doesn't know), I bumped into so many other relevant ones that they may well hijack this post. But don't worry. I promise you'll leave the Cosmos wiser and more ignorant than when you entered it.

I want to revert to one of our oldest and most foundational gags, which is to say, that quality can never be reduced to quantity; nor, for the same reason, can subject be reduced to object, semantics to syntax, exterior to interior. Conversely,

To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions. Do you see why? You had better see why, at least if you care about knowledge and about our cosmic situation more generally. For The doctrines that explain the higher by means of the lower are appendices of a magician’s rule book.

Also, as understood by anyone with a rudimentary acquaintance with philosophy of science, Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current. Such theses are indeed current, but current does not mean forever.

Forever knowledge is found only in revelation, metaphysics, theology, intellection, and infused contemplation, or it is not found. Or, you can pretend to have found it. Thus, to be exact, A fool is he who thinks that what he knows is without mystery.

However, Whoever has understood a notion from the natural sciences has understood what everyone can understand; whoever has understood a notion from the social sciences has understood what only he can understand.

There are certain "qualifications" for understanding a science. There are other qualifications for the scientist to understand the nature of science. The science of science is not a science, just as the philosophy of mathematics is not a number. Unless the number is One, which transcends and undergirds the very concept of number, or unity. At any rate, unity is a prerequisite of math, not a conclusion.

Here's a curious and seemingly paradoxical one, but this entire post goes to why it is Forever True: In order to perceive the stupidity of someone who deals with a subject, it is not always necessary to know the subject.

The average biologist, for example, might well know more about natural selection than I do. But the moment he imagines natural selection is a sufficient explanation for the human person is the moment I know more than he does about the subject.

Not the details, of course, only the whole freaking point of the details. If you imagine the details suffice, that's like the part trying to account for the whole. It is wholly irrational. It is what I call a lunar O-clipse, which is to say, the obscuring of reality by idiots. For He who understands the least is he who insists on understanding more than what can be understood.

Again, levels of knowledge, levels of ignorance:

The senile sclerosis of intelligence does not consist in the inability to change ideas, but in the inability to change the level for those that we have.


Erudition has three grades: the erudition of him who knows what an encyclopedia says, the erudition of him who writes what an encyclopedia says, and the erudition of him who knows what an encyclopedia does not know how to say.


It is enough to know nothing more than that certain beings have adopted an idea to know that it is false. From CNN to The View to the Creepy Porn Lawyer.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Nothing is Everything, Everything is Nothing

I apologize for this rambling, shambling excuse of a post. I got a late start, and by the time I gathered my bearings, time ran out. We'll make more progress nextpost.

Nor did the previous post get very far into our ignorance before the clock cut us off.

Again -- to pick up the main thread -- man is less unique for what he knows than for what he doesn't know; or, more precisely, for what he is able to unKnow. After all, every animal, even a single celled one, knows something. But that's all they know. Unlike human beings, they don't know that they know, and they certainly don't wonder about what they don't know.

If you could represent the situation in a Venn diagram thingy, there would be a complete overlap between "the world" of the single cell, and what it knows of the world.

Conversely, think of how different the situation is for a human being. You have to be very naive or very stupid to imagine that what you know exhausts what there is to know, or that your knowledge of the world is a complete map of the world. Even on the most concrete level, they say that dark matter -- whatever that is -- accounts for some 80% of the matter in the universe. Thus, we know that we don't know, but we have no idea what it is. That's not simple stupidity or unalloyed ignorance, but proper unKnowing.

It's certainly the same way with the human mind. You could compare it to an executive on top and a swamp below, very similar to the situation Trump is confronting. In my training, it was taken for granted that the great majority of the mind is unconscious. This is obvious when we wonder how creativity works, or how dreams are formed, or even where thoughts come from. Who knows? We can no more (consciously) dream a dream than we can beat our heart or make more insulin.

I've read a number of works by Hayek before, but nothing as dense and evocative as the Law, Legislation, and Liberty trilogy, and I think I know why: it's because it's resonating with everything I already believe to be fundamentally true of the world. In a way, it's reminding me of all the ideas that first caused (or at least coincided with) my brain to come on line back in my mid to late 20s.

I especially see a lot of Polanyi and Bion in Hayek. Or, to put it the other way around, I first discovered Hayekian principles in Bion. I'm getting the same explosive feeling now that I got back then. Let me see if I can provide a concrete example.

By the way, they say that most intellectual types discover a few ideas, and then spend the rest of their lives rediscovering and repeating them in various guises. Indeed, sometimes it's just one Big Idea, from natural selection to white privilege. You could say that the idea of Not Knowing is strong in this one (meaning me).

By the way, Not Knowing is associated with frustration, which, in a healthy person, is tolerated. But many people -- we call then liberals -- cannot tolerate this frustration, so they paper over the gaps with a projection of mastery or completeness. This is how they know Brett Kavanaugh is a sexual predator, or that every man is an abuser, or that All Women Must be Believed. It's also how they know socialism works, AGW is true, and the sexes are identical.

Often -- perhaps even more often than not -- "knowledge" is simply a defense agains intolerable ignorance; what we think we know defends us against what we don't actually know. At the extreme end, this morphs into paranoia, conspiracy mongering, psychosis, and the DNC.

Why do so many people pretend to know what they not only do not know, but cannot possibly know? Not knowing is hard, I guess. A professional not-knower is what we call a mystic, more or less. Or, every mystic is a not-knower in some sense. Apophatic theology is the last word in wordlessness. One could cite thousands of examples, but Eckhart is always close at hand:

The final goal of being is the darkness and the unknowability of the hidden divinity, which is that light which shines "but the darkness cannot comprehend it."

Or The most beautiful thing which a person can say about God would be for that person to remain silent from the wisdom of an inner wealth. For God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction.

All "in a manner of speaking," of course, and taking account of irony, playfulness, and paradox.

For the intellect to be free, it must become naked and empty and by letting go return to its prime origin.... We become a pure nothing by an unknowing knowledge....

I should hasten to add that Hayek, as far as I know, never associated himself with apophatic theology. Which is what makes it s'durned innarestin'. Conversely, toward the end of his life, Bion clearly began sliding off the psychoanalytic map and into mysticism. Some of his colleagues suspected him of madness, but he was simply following the absence of evidence where it didn't lead.

Bion associates a common type of thinking with the manufacture of graven images, which then beguile the one who manufactured them. This extends "psychoanalytic theory to cover the views of mystics from the Bhagavad Gita to the present.... The central postulate is that atonement with ultimate reality, or O, is essential to harmonious mental growth." And -- emphasis mine -- "Disturbance in capacity for atonement is associated with megalomanic attitudes."

Crazy! But what's he talking about? Well, there is reality -- O -- and our thoughts about it. A state of "mental health," or harmony, occurs when there is at-onement between thought and O, bearing in mind that O is prior to our thinking, and that it can never be contained by thought. If you think you can contain O with thought, then you, my friend, are a megalomaniac. Like Marx, for example.

And this is precisely what Hayek says about the left: in order to justify their dreams, memes, schemes, scams, and shams, they assume a kind of knowledge that is literally impossible for any finite mind to contain (a subject to which we will return).

Meanwhile, another relevant passage from Bion: in reference to the paradoxes of modern physics, "It would be ironical if an idea which the physicist is tending to discard should be taken up by the psychoanalyst.... The discovery of a 'cause' relates more to the peace of mind of the discoverer than to the object of his research."

Again, even if you were to figure it all out, where would this leave you? Right back where you started, just as the Poet told us ("And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started").

For Natural laws are irreducible to explanation, like any mystery. So Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything (Dávila).